Sacred Agents #130

Route Options for Repenters

I find Jesus wonderful and endlessly fascinating, so when opportunities arise to talk about him, I’m rarely at a loss for material. But yacking on about Jesus is only one part of evangelism. There’s another part that comes less easily to me, and I think to many across our movement. In fact, if every Australian who speaks for Christ could get together for a seminar, I reckon we should spend at least half of it on this: Inviting a response.

The gospel is news, it’s an announcement to be proclaimed. But it’s news-with-personal-implications. It’s an invitation, it’s a proposal. So we not only seek to make plain the goodness of God, but also to offer steps of faith in response. Sacred agents are guides for others – not blind guides like some Pharisees, but ones who know the way to peace with God because we’ve taken it ourselves.

Inviting a response is not always about an alter call while Ira Sankey sings Beneath the Cross of Jesus. If a work colleague is curious about why you go to church, it may simply be ending your answer with, “Would you like to come along and see for yourself?”

One challenge with this, however, is figuring out what level of response your listener/s may be ready to make. You can ask questions, read body language and look for clues. But it can be hard to know. Is this person ready to repent, be baptised, and identify fully as a Christian? Or is their next step simply to pick up a Bible or come to Alpha or watch a clip online?

Thankfully, we don’t need to offer only one response. When Google Maps gives me directions to reigning-quiz-champions Knightsbridge Baptist, it gives me several route options. Here’s the best and most direct way, in bright blue. But here are other steps too that will ultimately get you there.

Being cautious, we often assume that people aren’t ready to go straight to the foot of the cross. But this can mean we offer people tiny, incremental steps that result in a circuitous and not-so-scenic route to peace with God. If we only offer small steps, it can even suggest that getting to God is like a long mountain climb, not a particularly helpful gospel image. It’s true many are not ready to go straight to Jesus, but they need to know that they can.

On the other hand, if we only offer giant steps, then the only alternative to a big Yes is a No. So why not give options? “If you want peace with God, you can have it today, you know. But if you just want to check it all out, why not come along to Alpha, or read John’s gospel?”

We may be surprised by some who are indeed ready for a big step of faith. And we may also be surprised by some whose small steps turn into big ones.

Author: Andrew Turner is the Director of Crossover for Australian Baptist Ministries

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